All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.
Recently I was listening to an episode of the Oprah / Eckhart Tolle podcasts. Tolle described how he writes, and I was struck by the simplicity and peacefulness of the process. If you ever experience writer’s block, or if the words you do write feel forced, this guide may prove to be the solution for your troubles.
The following is a summary of how Eckhart Tolle writes:
- Awareness of thoughts as they arise
- Write, or if the thought is not relevant or useful, wait in stillness for the next one
I think this writing process can be condensed even further into the following two words: stillness speaks (fans of Tolle will recognize this as the name of one of this books). Recently I have been testing this process, and in this article I would like to share some practical advice related to each of the above steps.
Meet everyone and everything through stillness rather than mental noise.
Be mindful of when and where you write. As I write this the clock shows the time to be 6am. My wife and two sons are still fast asleep, and there is very little noise except for the occasional creaking sound. For me, this is the perfect time to be writing. Sometimes I write during my lunch break in the park close to my work, or occasionally I even get a burst of inspiration late at night when I am the only one awake. My point here is to find a time and place to write that is peaceful and still.
Clear your mind prior to writing. Stillness here refers to both your mind and body. Sometimes it feels like my mind is racing at a million miles per hour, and while this can be good for brain-storming ideas I don’t find it to be a good state of mind for writing. Instead, I prefer my mind to be “empty”. The most effective ways for me to achieve this state of mind are meditation, a good work out or yoga. I would be interested to hear other suggestions in the comments below.
Knowing yourself as the awareness behind the voice is freedom.
Allow thoughts to arise. Tolle told Oprah he sits in stillness and allows thoughts to naturally arise. Not every thought will be useful or worth writing, and that is fine because he knows he will have plenty more. For me, the key here is that Tolle is not forcing himself to think. It may seem counterintuitive to seek an empty mind, but I have found it is from this place the best writing is produced.
Mindfulness. To be mindful is to be aware of your thoughts. When I began to observe my mind, I noticed many of my thoughts were simply meaningless chatter. Since noticing this chatter I have become free to observe life without getting caught in the commentary. When it comes to writing, such mindfulness means I can let a thought go without feeling the need to chase it.
Stay present, stay conscious. Be the ever-alert guardian of your inner space.
Be present. Once you start writing, it is important to stay present in the moment. This means your mind does not drift to the past, the future, what is on your to-do list or some other unrelated topic. Of course this is easier said than done. If you are interested in learning more about being present, or any other ideas mentioned in this article, I highly recommend the following: